Bringing Out the Genius in Every Student

Genius Hour

Snuffing Out the Spark

Have you ever given an assignment and heard students say, “Do we have to do this?”, “Is it for a grade”, “How many pages do we need to ___”, or “Why do we need to learn this?”. Sadly these are not uncommon statements made by students in classroom across America. Comments like these are evidence that we as teachers sometimes fail to capture the hearts and minds of our students.

What happens to students after years and years of meaningless work? Students become like robots going through the motions, become unengaged and lose interest in school. Where did the excitement about learning new things go? Who put the fire out?

Vital Ingredient

What drives people and propels them to do amazing things even in spite of sometimes overwhelming obstacles? The answer is passion. Passion is a powerful ingredient absent in many classrooms today. It is missing in many of my colleagues and that is transmitted to students.

What does a passionate teacher look like? Perhaps you have heard the phrase, “Teach like your hair is on fire,” but that is not the kind of passion I am refereeing to.

Passion is a strong and barely controllable emotion. According to Merriam-Webster, passion is a strong feeling of enthusiasm or excitement for something or about doing something. It is passion that makes a person try it one more time even though they failed 100 times trying already. They simply can’t quit. The desire for the thing they are most passionate about is like a fire in their bones they can hardly contain.

What does passion have to do with teaching and learning? The answer is, everything!

Igniting a Wild Fire

What would happen if we created an opportunity for student directed personal learning? What would result from teachers allowing students time to research and learn about things that inspire and motive them? Many teachers are doing just that and as a result students are taking charge of their own learning and doing amazing things. The time students spend on this radically authentic learning is called Genius Hour.

Roots of Genius Hour

There is a movement that is beginning to sweep our nation. It is called, Genius Hour or Passion Projects. Genius Hour is a business practice used by Google. Google allows its developers to spend 20% of their workday working on any project that interests them. Google’s 80/20 policy has resulted in a boost in creativity, innovation and productivity. Gmail, Google Drive, Google Talk and Google News are all ideas that employees came up with during their personal project time.

Getting Started

Genius Hour is something I want to implement in my class next year.  To prepare, I am gathering as much information about it as I can and trying to learn from other teachers.  Here is a Pinterest board I created to help me curate all the resources I have found.

Follow Teaching with Nancy’s board Genius Hour on Pinterest.

Learn More About It

What to dig deeper and learn more about Genius Hour? Check out these resources.

My hope is that this post will spark an interest in you and that you too, help students find their passion and discover their purpose.



This post was originally shared on Elementary Learning Solutions. 


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